Fang on Wax 

Wax Fang’s latest finds them sharpening their canines

Wax Fang have kept good company. Last year, the trio toured with fellow Louisvillians My Morning Jacket, then opened for Spoon in Nashville a few months later, acquiring a higher profile than your typical unsigned band.

Wax Fang have kept good company. Last year, the trio toured with fellow Louisvillians My Morning Jacket, then opened for Spoon in Nashville a few months later, acquiring a higher profile than your typical unsigned band. In September, the band landed another coveted slot at the Next Big Nashville showcase at Exit/In. (The Fang’s non-Music City address was an easily ignored technicality, as the band delivered one of the festival’s standout performances.) Fresh off the hype, the band proves that the buzz is well deserved on their debut, La La Land.

Mixed in Nashville at Beach House with Mark Nevers, La La Land is Wax Fang’s first full-length—last year frontman Scott Carney released the solo debut Black and Endless Nights, on which he played every instrument, under the moniker Scott Carney and Heavy Friends. He recruited a rhythm section, and together they’ve taken that album’s dreamy approach and expanded the palette. The result is more grandiose and harder rockin’—the band’s softer, more delicate moments remain intact, but here Carney’s searing guitar leads are more freely doled out.

Opener “Majestic” serves as the album’s template—an arpeggiated guitar line opens, layers of cyclical guitar lines swarm over the top, then drummer Kevin Ratterman’s huge kit signals the verse and cues the vocals. Somewhere in the middle is a badass guitar solo, but the fun really starts on the second track, “World War II (pt 2).” The musical prowess relents only for a brief moment when Carney belts, “Bombs from above will kill you if you catch one of them,” before he retreats back into layers of guitar that would make Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch proud.

But this album isn’t without hooks: “The Doctor Will See You Now” is immediately hummable, and the fast shuffle behind “Can You See the Light?” anchors Carney’s slow and direct vocal melody. Several seconds of distant keys follow the latter track, and it marks the record’s midway shift. Here the Fang grow more self-indulgent, as on the instrumental “Avant Guardian Angel Dust.”

Two big, sprawling compositions close the record, testing any momentum left over from the first half, where the band’s pop sensibilities are cemented. “Black & Endless Night Revisited” opens with big, heavy chords that fade into a soft moodiness that comprises the bulk of the song’s nearly six minutes. The closer, “Wake Up, Sleepyhead,” shows the band at their most dynamic and challenging: at almost 10 minutes, the song begins much like the opener—a soft opening with a big mid-track crescendo. Any momentum lost here is strictly because the material grows more nuanced—the mark of a band that has plenty more cards up its sleeve.

Coupled with Carney’s hyper-expressive and distinct vocals, the trio’s debt to ’70s prog bands King Crimson, Pink Floyd and even a little bit of Rush becomes more apparent on La La Land. Luckily, Wax Fang’s propensity to meander is much more tempered compared to the prog bands from which they draw inspiration, but all of these bands have at least one thing in common—no matter how good a quiet part might be, we’re really just waiting for the band to rock. Wax Fang are at their best when they’re kicking ass hardest.

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